Dec. 23, 2008
Tuesday: Lobos 76, New Mexico State 62
Up Next: Lobos at New Mexico State, Dec. 30, Las Cruces
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Most of the numbers across the stat sheet didn't show a whole lot of advantages for Lobos over Aggies, except in two key areas: scoring and rebounding.
The Lobos outrebounded New Mexico State 41-25 -- 14 to 5 in offensive boards -- Tuesday night in The Pit which contributed greatly to the scoring column that favored New Mexico 76-62 over the Aggies.
"He (Coach Steve Alford) told everybody to crash the boards," said UNM senior Tony Danridge, who led all scorers with 22 points. "This is a big rivalry game. That's why everyone was fired up. It's a great rivalry."
Said Alford: "I like what we did on the backboard. We don't have one guy who is going to go out and get 12, 14 rebounds in one night. We have to be a team (in rebounding)."
Game One in this rivalry goes to the University of New Mexico, but the two teams have a Dec. 30 date in Las Cruces. The Lobos lured in 17,197 fans Tuesday night and The Pit's energy probably was a factor a time or two in helping UNM make a run or two. "I've always appreciated everything The Pit has done," said junior Roman Martinez, who had 15 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two steals. "It's an intimidation factor."
The Lobos will not be the team of favor come Dec. 30, but the NMSU students will be on break during that game and the heart of the Pan American Center crowds always has been its student section. NMSU coach Marvin Menzies also likely will have his young Aggies working on a few fundamental aspects of basketball.
"We have to defend better. We have to rebound better," said Menzies. "I think we have to get stronger. We'd have the ball in our hands and we didn't secure it. We had those freshman fingers going. And a lot of times they are just running to the ball and not putting a body on a guy. You have to be fundamentally sound to come out of this place with a win."
The Aggies worked themselves into a 31-25 halftime hole before cutting the UNM lead to two points at 46-44 with 11:59 to play. That was as close as the Aggies got to UNM, which led 67-57 with 3:30 to play. "I thought they kept their composure when we made runs at them," said Menzies. "The Lobos answered every time."
The back breaker for UNM probably came at the 2:11 mark when Danridge took off with a Daniel Faris blocked shot and threw down a monster dunk to make it 70-59.
Martinez was quick to note that the breakaway dunks from Danridge that fire up both the Lobos and The Pit often are preceded by some good work on the defensive end. "He gives us a boost everytime he does something like that," said Martinez. "But it all starts on the defensive end."
Danridge also had a dunk in the first half -- a windmill/reverse jam -- that was set up by a Danridge steal and a nice pass from freshman Nate Garth.
Danridge and Martinez were joined in double figures by Phillip McDonald with 12 and Chad Toppert with 11. Garth had five assists to one turnover. Faris only scored six points going 2-of-10 from the floor, but the 6-foot-9 senior had eight rebounds and a steal.
"I thought we made some strides," said Alford. "It was a good win for us. (Tony) was very efficient (in scoring) and he led his team. The last four or five games, he's rebounded the way we need him to rebound."
The Lobos extended their six-point halftime lead to 40-30 on back-to-back buckets by McDonald and a follow-up shot by Danridge. It looked like the Lobos would separate themselves a bit from the Aggies, but NMSU came back with a 3-pointer, a layup and then a dunk by Wendell McKines at 16:54 to make it 40-37.
Danridge hit a 3-pointer going into the 14:31 timeout to tap UNM back up 43-37. The Aggies were shooting 45.2 percent at that point, a big improvement from their first-half percentage of 36 percent. At the 11:59 time, it was 46-41 in favor of UNM, which had controlled the boards 30-17 at that point.
The Lobos used back-to-back 3-pointers by Toppert and Martinez plus a single free throw by Danridge to make it 53-46 with ten minutes left in the second half. The Lobos got a huge 3-pointer from McDonald at 7:53 to go up 58-49 and the score stayed there going into the 7:29 media timeout.
The Aggies got a bucket by Jonathan Gibson that was accompanied by a free throw and UNM was up 58-53. Faris flipped in a short, left-handed shot off a feed by McDonald to give UNM a 60-53 cushion.
Martinez hit two free throws at 5:39 to make it 63-55. The scores stayed there and at 4:16 Alford called a timeout. UNM came out of the break to get two free throws by Toppert to go up 65-55 -- a 10-point lead with four minutes to play. UNM maintained that 10-point cushion when Garth accepted a backdoor pass from Martinez and laid it in for a 67-57 UNM lead with 3:29 to play.
At the 2:45 mark, it was still 67-57. The Aggies' Young hit a short jumper to chop UNM's lead to 67-59 and NMSU called a timeout with 2:34 to go. It was about time for the Aggies to press and put the Lobos at the line.
That's what the Aggies did. Toppert made a single free throw and UNM was up 68-59 with 2:23 to play. Danridge probably sealed the win when he raced off with a shot blocked by Faris and threw down a hard dunk at the 2:11 mark.
The Aggies cut the lead to 70-62 with 2:01 to play, but UNM had enough of a cushion to use the free-throw line to hold on for the 76-62 win. The Lobos got a nice block from Danridge and Martinez took two charges in the final two minutes to help thwart any Aggies' shot at a comeback.
The same two differences between Lobos and Aggies also surfaced in the first half: shooting and rebounding. At the 11:54 timeout, the score was 15-6 in favor of UNM. The Lobos had won the board battle 11-6 and were shooting 54.5 percent to 20 percent (3-15) for NMSU. The Lobos got their 15th point on a Danridge windmill/reverse dunk off a Garth feed.
The Aggies warmed up slightly and with 7:32 to play the Aggies were shooting 30 percent and down 20-14. New Mexico State used back-to-back 3-pointer by Jahmar Young to cut UNM's lead to 23-20 before Martinez followed a missed Jonathan Wills' 3-pointer to push UNM up 25-20 going into the 3:44 media timeout.
The Lobos went up 28-23 on a nice look-and-feed by Garth. The freshman went up for a wide open 15-footer, but spotted Faris equally open and closer to the hoop. Garth gave up the ball and Faris threw down a soft dunk. The Aggies cut it to 28-25 on a 14-footer by Troy Gillenwater and Alford called a timeout with 49.7 to play. The set play got Danridge open on the right baseline and he buried a 3-pointer to push UNM up 31-25 at the break.
The Lobos shot 46.2 percent in the first half (12-26) to 36 percent for NMSU (9-25). The Lobos dominated the boards 21-to-12. Danridge paced UNM in the first half with 12 points. Faris had seven boards and Martinez had 10 points and five boards. NMSU got 11 points from Jahmar Young and no Aggie had more than three rebounds.
Editor's note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner